Remarks by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Australian Prime Minister John Howard during an Honor Cordon
SEC. RUMSFELD: Hello, folks!
Q Hello. How are you?
SEC. RUMSFELD: How are you all? What are you doing, just hanging around getting a suntan?
Q Mr. Secretary, what issues did you cover during your talk with the prime minister?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the prime minister's right here. You can ask him. (Laughter.)
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: (Chuckles.) We covered the whole gamut of the defense relationship. We obviously talked about Iraq, and Afghanistan, and East Timor and those sort of things, and a couple of bilateral issues. But I'm talking to all the Australian media, and any others who want to come along, in about half an hour. So we might do that then, hey?
Q Mr. Secretary, what do you have in mind for the Australian troops in Iraq when the Japanese -- (off mike)?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, America doesn't have in mind things like that. The sovereign nations that have been so wonderful to assist in Iraq and Afghanistan make those judgments themselves, and they work those kinds of things out, decide what's in their best interests, and then meet with General Casey and sort through kinds of responsibilities and activities. We don't mandate things like that.
Q (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think Australia ought to do whatever the leadership in Australia decide is proper for them to do.
Q Mr. Secretary, if the diplomatic options in Iran fail, would you like Australia to support you in any possible military action that might eventuate there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I would characterize that as a triple hypothetical -- (laughter) -- and I don't even do singles.
Q Gentlemen, did the subject of Guantanamo Bay come up, and David Hicks?
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: Yes, we talked about the Hicks -- about Hicks' position and the problem -- or should I say the circumstance which is delaying his trial before a military commission is a legal action in the American courts, of which he is party. And until that is resolved, the military commission trial can't go ahead. And that's not our fault, and it's not the fault of the secretary of Defense and the United States, it's not the fault of the American administration.
We've made our position very clear. We believe he should be tried before the military commission. And what's holding that up is an action challenging the military commission launched on his and others' behalves. And until that is resolved, his military commission trial can't go ahead. We do not want him to come back to Australia until he's been tried before the military commission, and that can't go ahead until the court process which he started here is resolved.
Now, I can't add anything to that. And as far as I'm concerned, that remains the position.
Q Mr. Secretary, does the United States recognize the peculiar issues and problems that Australia has on its own doorstep in the close Pacific area?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We did have a discussion about some of the situations in the areas neighboring Australia. And the prime minister brought me up to date as to what was taking place and what they were doing. And we had a good discussion.
Q Is there an American role there, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That -- first, I guess we don't know if there's an Australian role --
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: No --
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- and --
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: We have a -- I mean, as far as we're -- I mean we're not seeking at this stage anything other than to respond to a request. If there is a request, we'll be able to respond to it. I would imagine that as far as troops and military capacity, apart from perhaps lift capacity, can be voluntarily covered by Australia and perhaps others in the region. If -- I've always taken the view, and the government's always taken the view that this is primarily an Australian responsibility. The Pacific is our backyard and we are the country that has the prime responsibility for looking after the security exigencies as they arise.
I think I better let the secretary go and do some more work.
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